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Strauss-Kahn rape claims probed

French investigators are studying accusations that Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have been involved in a rape during a sex party in a Washington hotel in 2010 while he was chief of the International Monetary Fund, a judicial official has said.

Strauss-Kahn, via his lawyers, denied any violence and said he is the subject of a public "lynching campaign". The prominent economist, once a top contender for France's presidency, has seen his career and reputation crumble since he was accused of sexual assault in a New York hotel a year ago.

Investigating judges in the northern French city of Lille have asked for prosecutors' permission to broaden a suspected prostitution probe to examine claims of rape in Washington in December 2010, said an official at the Lille prosecutor's office.

The prosecutor's office will decide next week whether to expand the investigation, the official said.

Strauss-Kahn is already a target in the Lille prostitution probe, which has mushroomed over the past year into a nationwide scandal. He is facing preliminary charges of alleged aggravated pimping, based on accusations by other people questioned in the investigation.

He denies those charges. He has acknowledged being involved in "libertine" activity while saying that he was unaware of anyone being paid for sex.

The Lille prosecutor's office gave no details of the US rape accusations.

French daily Liberation reported today that two Belgian prostitutes questioned in the Lille probe described Strauss-Kahn as using violence during sex at the W Hotel in Washington.

Washington police said they had checked their records for December 16, 2010 and the W hotel - the date and time cited in media reports - and found no reports describing allegations of such activity at the hotel.

Washington police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said French authorities have not contacted the DC police department about the allegations. "We have to have a report of a crime to investigate it," she said.

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